Two years ago I featured in a segment on ABC TV’s pop culture show Mondo Thingo, an ABC in-house production. The two cameramen assigned to the job were independant contractors. They consisted of a broadcast camera operator in the passenger seat, a sound man, and a DVD camera mounted on the dashboard. They explained that the ABC’s technical department didn’t have the wherewithal to tape an in-vehicle location.
On Tuesday I met with an independent documentary maker to discuss a project on taxi drivers. She showed me footage on a laptop of an in-cab interview using a DVD camera, comparable work to that done by Mondo Thingo, for a fraction of the cost.
Little wonder the ABC is proposing to commission television production of various content from the independent sector, rather than use their own facilities. Is it because they are simply not cost efficient ? Furthermore, a few examples suggest their spending of public money doesn't help their cause.
Last night ABC TV held a function in Sydney to launch their new programs for 2007. It was attended by 100 invited guests. However due to a balls-up in planning, it was catered for 400 guests. A staffer I carried lamented, ‘It was a disaster. Even though we knew days beforehand only 100 guests were attending, no one informed the caterers of a change in numbers’. Hopefully the excess food was donated to homeless shelters.
A media guest from Fairfax, Paul Kalina reported on the event in today’s The Age (online) with this disclosure - Paul Kalina travelled to Sydney courtesy of the ABC - yet the same report with Kalina’s byline ran in the Sydney Morning Herald(online). Why then was a Melbourne reporter required at considerable expense (airfares, taxis, accommodation) when a Fairfax reporter from Sydney could have done the same job, free to the ABC ?
It would appear a cavalier attitude to public money is not uncommon. Today’s The Australian reports on the upheaval within the ABC over the proposal to out source to the independant sector. A comment on the loss of nature documentaries is instructive,
The production stamina of the independent sector is also being questioned by some within the ABC. "If you're in the independent sector, you're not going to sit and wait six months for a couple of penguins to bonk," one producer said.
Of course not, it's all about the efficient spending of investors money.
Bitch-slap blowback ! Lefty claims vindication. The Foreign Minister has been slammed after The Australian joins the dig. But then they would given their journalist reported the hoax missile strike on a Lebanese ambulance.
UPDATE : It’s a great day to be on the net. So many bitch slaps handed out, I’m dizzy !
A news item from a few weeks back,
THREE hundred Sydney taxi drivers have been recruited as spies for a controversial text-messaging service that warns drivers about speed cameras and police blitzes.
As a Sydney cabbie, they can leave me out of this Road Spy scheme. There's enough ratbags on the road already without encouraging their reckless driving with advance warning. Book 'em.
Thanks to the tireless work of Michael Jools, president of the New South Wales Taxi Drivers Association, the great credit card rip-off employed by Cabcharge has been successfully challenged. I'm speaking of taxi passengers being hit with a 10% surcharge for the priviledge of processing their plastic through EFTPOS terminals in cabs.
Whilst the Australian Competition Tribunal resisted revoking this outrageous impost entirely, they have forced Cabcharge to relinquish their monopoly on the scam,
The ruling means taxi drivers can now choose alternative payment systems from the dominant Cabcharge system, opening taxi payments to competition.
This could result in drivers receiving a share of the service fee, or even a reduction in the service fee a customer paid, said the NSW Taxi Drivers Association president, Michael Jools.
In other cab-related media, a Sydney Morning Herald blogger laments the lack of Sydney cabbie locality knowledge. An old story but worth another spin. I left a comment,
As a Sydney cabbie I totally agree, too many cabbies haven't a clue where to go.
Why doesn't the Herald start a campaign to get rid of them ? This would reduce the workforce by 50%, thereby driving up fares and I'll make a fortune. I dare you...
Obesity is shaping up as the epidemic of the 21st century according to an Australian Obesity Summit. Of particular concern is children's obesity with claims that puppy fat is a myth and obesity is likely to continue into adulthood. Yet authorities have dogged the opportunity to regulate 'pester' advertising whereby young children are being cynically manipulated to harass parents into buying junk food. A true epidemic, or a misuse of language?
A taxi passenger this week was a principal of a rehabilitation facility for sex-offenders. She claimed that with appropriate treatment the recidivism rate for sex-offenders was around 13%. I didn't believe her. Furthermore, she claimed that common criminals like robbers, druggies and physical assaulters had a much higher recidivism rate (around 60%) than sex-offenders. She was right.
The overnight news that 911 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui got life is much better than the death penalty. Not that I'm opposed to the death penalty per se, but in his case life sucks. Moussaoui will remain incarcerated for the rest of his miserable life to rue the missed opportunity of martyrdom and a virgin banquet. Now that's a true bitch.
The other overnight news which really pleased me is that former Premier Jeff Kennet is considering re-entering Victorian politics, after the demise of the current Liberal leader. Why ? Because left-wing bloggers have become stale and boring of late. Kennet is sure to give them new motivation to be 'outraged/appalled'. RWDB's rejoice at the prospect.
Hey Bloggers! Blog on to my blogtastic blog!!! sneers Jim Schembri, under the guise of (lame) satire. He inadvertently demonstrates why many journalists despise bloggers. Namely cabbies, bouncers, the homeless; anyone who can put two words together can publish and gain a readership. What are you afraid of Jim, losing your hallowed status?
At the Minneapolis-St. Paul International airport in the United States, it would appear sharia law is literally being road-tested...
Some cab drivers are refusing to take passengers because they are carrying alcohol, such as bottles of wine or cases of beer, which conflicts with their religious beliefs.
Airport staff say Muslim drivers have refused to take passengers with alcohol 922 times in the past year.
These cases involved duty-free alcohol rather than alcohol being consumed in the cab. Officials are now meeting to resolve the issue. Sheesh...in Sydney such denial of service would constitute a breach of the taxi license and suspension would result immediately.
Meanwhile at Perth's domestic airport last Friday night, a taxi blitz was conducted by Centrelink, Taxation and Federal officers. Some 30% of drivers checked are suspected of welfare fraud. Who'd have thought such a thing occurs in an honourable profession,
"They search us like criminals," said taxi driver Naim Mohammed. "It's a busy Friday night, there are five flights arriving, people are waiting because the police are stopping all the taxis."
Last night at Sydney domestic airport, Transport Department officials were fining drivers who arrive via an illegal entry shute. It's an old short-cut for many drivers despite it breaching road rules. As one driver commented, if a driver complied with every little road rule then we'd make no money.
Sadly we take some risks from time to time, at our peril. One such risk is driving a cab,
TAXI driver Trevor Andrei is determined to stay on the job, despite being bashed on his first night at work...
"I was dropping off a group of intoxicated guys at the address they had requested, when all of a sudden they got out of hand and started smashing windows and throwing bottles at the van," he said.
The attack had left him more than $3000 out of pocket.
But it's not about the money, right. Like Trev, all cabbies simply want to get passengers home safe and sound. Why ? Because we care...
Okay, confession time - yes, I smoke; no, I’m not proud of it; yes, I know I shouldn’t; no, I don’t feel guilty. Another admission - I really enjoy smoking. There, I’ve said it.
Actually, the moment I start feeling guilty about smoking is probably the moment I'll suddenly go downhill and die from a smoking related illness. Otherwise statistics say I have a fifty-fifty chance of surviving smoking. Which is not to say I'm blind to the risks.
It’s just I’m not going to entertain the idea of dying nor stress-out over it. I figure I’ve gotta die of something. Or as Kinky Friedman says, ‘Find your poison and let it kill you’.
Last night I hit the supermarket for my regular carton of fags. Instead of the relatively discreet packaged carton this is what the checkout chick presented me with. ‘No, you’ve got the wrong brand’, I said, not recognising my usual carton. She waved it in my face and sneered, ‘This is it - they’re now in a new carton’. How embarrassment.
Sure enough, the six-pack of cigarettes was wrapped in clear cellophane to reveal gruesome images of deformed teeth, clogged arteries and pock-marked lungs. All thanks to the new health legislation on cigarette labelling.
Now I’ve smoked for some thirty four years, and have no previous smoking related illnesses. Indeed, I’ve always considered smoking had protected me from a myriad of colds and flu viruses others contact with regularity. Whilst I won’t deny a possible smoking related condition nothing so far has manifested, or caused me any problems.
Nonetheless these new cigarette pack images depicting smoking diseases are grossly unfair and patently duplicitous. In particular the image of rotting teeth and mouth cancer has me wondering at what stage that particular case was recorded. After thirty four years of smoking my teeth and mouth by comparison look fine, once 52 years of wear and tear are factored in. (images enlarge)
Sure, my arteries and lungs would present a different picture but I’m not going there, nor need to. I undergo regular check-ups; I don’t have circulatory issues; my lung capacity is okay; why should I stress over their condition ? Do drinkers get hit with disgusting images of cirrhosis of the liver ? Are heavy meat eaters assailed with images of bowel cancer ? Why single out smokers ?
Undoubtedly smoking is potentially a serious health risk and I for one intend to quit one day. But the point I’m making is how can the Government, who share a mutual addiction to cigarettes (via taxes), conduct such a vicious campaign against smokers ?
For the record : Revenue attributable to tobacco products collected by the Australian Tax Offices (ATOs) Excise Business Line (EBL) in 2000/2001 totalled A$4.8 billion, ($5.09 billion estimated for 2003-04) which accounted for 24 per cent of total excise collections in that year.
In 2002 (NSW) more than $152m pa spent on treating tobacco-related illness.
Furthermore, a seventy percent tax on cigarettes contributes to health, transport and welfare services, etc, so the argument smokers drain health services is surely specious.
Another thing. In recent times the anti-smoking lobby has become so hysterical it now decrees against smoking outdoors !? Which demonstrates their campaign is not only personal but an urban middle-class attack on the working poor, rural folk, young blue-collar men, unemployed people, lone parents, Indigenous people and men from Asian, Mediterranean and Baltic countries. Those who represent the largest sector of smokers.
For many smokers life is an absolute bitch as they struggle with everyday burdens and pressures in order to maintain control. I'd suggest if it wasn’t for cigarettes there would be more people losing it and flooding our health and welfare services, to name but two.
If cigarettes are a legal method used by people to cope with daily life, then smokers deserve not to be absolutely pilloried and made to feel like pariahs. As with these appalling images. Indeed, self-obsessed junkies receive more government empathy than smokers, who pay large taxes to smoke. In fact heroin addiction may well be easier to defeat than tobacco.
Either the authorities make tobacco illegal and forego the huge excise revenue they rely upon, or cut the discrimmination and allow us to reform without the guilt trip. They can’t have it both ways. At the same time, they can apply the same criteria to alcohol and gambling, just to be consistent.
Feel free to convince me otherwise...I'm open to alternative viewpoints on the issue.
There are news reports of a large increase in drink-spiking victims presenting to hospitals. The drugs identified are primarily GBH, ketamine (horse tranquiller) and liquid ecstasy, plus epilepsy and sleeping drugs.
Occasionally at work, when I think about it, I inquire of young female passengers if they know anyone who’s had their drink spiked. I’ve made about a half dozen inquiries in the last six months. Disturbingly, passengers have all answered in the affirmative.
Last night my passenger un-hesitantly responded, ‘Yes, a friend we were out with recently was a spiking victim’. ‘Where was this ?’, I asked her. ‘King Street Wharf’, she responded, a place other passengers have previously identified. This is a popular area of trendy bars, frequented by large groups of middle-class young adults on the grog.
It’s a crowd who indulge in exotic beers, spirits and cocktails until the early hours. The King Street bars’ ambiance borders on that of dance clubs, yet still retains enough bar characteristics to be able to mix socially and meet new friends. In short, music levels allow one to hold a decent conversation, barely.
Not so that of dance clubs, where many of this crowd move to after midnight in order to dance till dawn. There the dominant vibe is the music, LOUD music, which precludes any meaningful conversation. A vibe invariably enhanced by the use of ecstasy, GBH, speed, cocaine, and/or ice. Some of the drugs used by drink-spikers.
Fortunately in the case mentioned by last night’s passenger, her group of friends stayed together and accompanied the victim home in a taxi. In fact none of these cases related to me had pursued medical treatment or lodged police reports.
Quite possibly, and I’m extrapolating here, the symptoms of drink spiking are not unlike those of recreational drugs, except for being much heavier dosages. Drugs which many people are blasé about, from regular use in dance clubs.
Maybe due to the spike-victim's condition, their symptoms are not considered debilitating enough to be life threatening, and so are never reported. However the amount of unreported cases is most worrying. Anecdotal evidence I’m hearing suggests most victims are being escorted home by friends, thereby avoiding official statistics.
It's apparent clubbers can comfortably handle single doses of party drugs and still retain the ability to look after themselves. However two doses in close succession, maybe the result of a drink-spike, and the effects are often devastating.
In the short space of thirty minutes, the second dose will kick-in and bang, they’re gone, to be ‘taken care of’ by the closest person at hand.
Needless to say, people must watch out for each other when partying on chemicals. And if they think someone is just nodding-off under the influence, having ‘a good time’ like, they may actually be spiking victims, who are quietly dying.